By Katie Benfield
Fifteen years ago, Susan Sweet endeavored to teach herself how to quilt. Having years of prior experience with sewing and designing outfits, she felt that it was time to pursue other creative channels.
“I taught myself, so my first quilts were really bad. I had no idea what I was doing,” Sweet said. “Off I went trying it on my own, and I made so many mistakes.”
However, when she moved to the High Country 11 years ago, she joined the Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild and her skills in quilting were refined. She was introduced to a community of people that were instructive and helpful that she fell right into.
“They taught me all kinds of things, and now I give classes through the quilt guild,” Sweet said.
The Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild also has workshops every month where they work on making quilts for the community. According to Sweet, the guild quilts about 100 quilts a year to give back to those in need.
“We donate them to the hospice house and pregnancy centers,” Sweet said. “We’re giving one to the fire station, we have some wounded warrior quilts.”
The quilt guild is also known for the effort it produces to teach those who want to learn how to quilt, which is why Sweet learned how to quilt and achieve what she has thus far.
“They taught me everything I know about quilting,” Sweet said.
Because of the guild’s help and encouragement, an idea hatched in her mind four years ago to design a quilt.
“I just spent a long time coming up with ideas and then I spent the next year or so designing the different squares,” Sweet said.
However, Sweet’s design was not intended to just create any other quilt. The quilt that Sweet wanted to produce was an ABC quilt – dedicated to Watauga County.
“We moved to Watauga about 11 years ago, and we’ve just absolutely loved it and everything about it,” Sweet said. “I just decided to do something that would honor Watauga County.”
The name of the quilt is “Watauga Alphabet” — a fitting name as each panel on the quilt has a different letter of the alphabet. Sweet took each letter and used it to represent something that all of us know and love about Watauga County.
While a majority of the letters on the quilt were easy to relate back to Watauga County, such as ‘f’ being associated with “Falling Leaves” and ‘k’ for “Kayaking,” there were quite a few that Sweet struggled with to create the perfect association and panel.
“The ones that really got me were the ‘u’ and the ‘v.’ I couldn’t decide what in the world to do, “ Sweet said. “So, I ended up putting them together and calling it ‘Unbelievable Views’.”
Along with this, the letter ‘x’ was tricky to figure out, so Sweet employed the help of some of her companions who were able to come up with the most fitting thing.
“Someone told me that they cross skis in the mountains, on the slopes and stuff,” Sweet said, “so I crossed the skis and made an ‘x’.”
Sweet’s creative mind resulted in a gorgeous, unique quilt that everyone can observe and love because it is held together by the stitchings that carry tradition, beauty and all anyone needs to know in order to feel at home here in the High Country. Sweet didn’t just design a quilt, she told a story. Colleen Estridge also helped with this project by doing the actual quilting, meaning that she took the designed and created top layer of the quilt by Sweet and sewed it to the backing with some batting in between, producing a full and finished product.
The quilt currently hangs in Sweet’s living room, but she continues to be encouraged by others to enter it into quilt shows around the county.
The Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild meets the first Thursday of every month at 1:00 p.m. at the Senior Center; they welcome new members of all skill levels to join, learn and create beautiful quilts.
Photo by Ken Ketchie: